Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
|"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"|
|Single by Paul and Linda McCartney|
|from the album Ram|
|B-side||"Too Many People"|
|Released||2 August 1971 (US only)|
|Writer(s)||Paul and Linda McCartney|
|Producer(s)||Paul and Linda McCartney|
|Paul and Linda McCartney singles chronology|
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" is a song by Paul and Linda McCartney from the album Ram. Released in the United States as a single on 2 August 1971, but premiering on WLS the previous week (as a "Hit Parade Bound" (HPB)), it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on 4 September 1971, making it the first of a string of post-Beatles, McCartney-penned singles to top the US pop chart during the 1970s and '80s.
Elements and interpretation
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" is composed of several unfinished song fragments that McCartney stitched together similar to the medleys from the Beatles' album Abbey Road. The song is noted for its sound effects, including the sounds of a thunderstorm, with rain, heard between the first and second stanza, the sound of a telephone ringing, and a message machine, heard after the second stanza, and a sound of chirping sea birds and wind by the seashore. Linda's voice is heard in the harmonies as well as the bridge section of the "Admiral Halsey" portion of the song.
McCartney said "Uncle Albert" was based on his uncle. "He's someone I recall fondly, and when the song was coming it was like a nostalgia thing." McCartney also said, "As for Admiral Halsey, he's one of yours, an American admiral", referring to Fleet Admiral William "Bull" Halsey (1882–1959). McCartney has described the "Uncle Albert" section of the song as an apology from his generation to the older generation, and Admiral Halsey as an authoritarian figure who ought to be ignored.
Despite the disparate elements that make up the song, author Andrew Grant Jackson discerns a coherent narrative to the lyrics, related to McCartney's emotions in the aftermath of the Beatles' breakup. In this interpretation, the song begins with McCartney apologizing to his uncle for getting nothing done, and being easily distracted and perhaps depressed in the lethargic "Uncle Albert" section. Then, after some sound effects remeniscent of "Yellow Submarine," Admiral Halsey appears to him calling him to action, although McCartney remains more interested in "tea and butter pie." McCartney stated that he put the butter in the pie so that it would not melt at all.  Jackson sees a possible sinister allusion in the use of Admiral Halsey as a character in the song, since Halsey was famous for fighting the Japanese in World War II and claiming that "after the war, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell," and McCartney's ex-Beatle partner John Lennon had recently married a Japanese woman, Yoko Ono. The "hands across the water" section which follows could be taken as evocative of the command "All hands on deck!", rousing McCartney to action, perhaps to compete with Lennon. The song then ends with the "gypsy" section, in which McCartney resolves to get back on the road and perform his music, now that he was on his own without his former bandmates who no longer wanted to tour.
Paul McCartney won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists in 1971 for the song. The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies.
According to Allmusic critic Stewart Mason, fans of Paul McCartney's music are divided in their opinions of this song. Although some fans praise it as "one of his most playful and inventive songs" others criticize it for being "exactly the kind of cute self-indulgence that they find so annoying about his post-Beatles career." Mason himself considers it "churlish" to be annoyed by the song, given that song isn't intended to be completely serious, and praises the "Hands across the water" section as being "lovably giddy."
On the US charts, the song set a songwriting milestone as the all-time songwriting record (at the time) for the most consecutive calendar years to write a #1 song. This gave McCartney eight consecutive years (starting with "I Want to Hold Your Hand"), leaving behind Lennon with only seven years.
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" also appears on Wings Greatest from 1978, even though Ram was not a Wings album, and again on the US version of McCartney's 1987 compilation, All the Best!, as well as the 2001 compilation Wingspan: Hits and History.
- Paul McCartney - lead, harmony and backing vocals, piano, bass
- Linda McCartney - harmony and backing vocals
- David Spinozza - guitar
- Hugh McCracken - guitar
- Denny Seiwell - drums
- Marvin Stamm - flugelhorn
- New York Philharmonic - orchestral arrangement
- The song was used in the episode "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Uncle" of the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses, where the character of Uncle Albert leaves home.
- Harry Shearer uses a looped sample of "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" for the "Apologies of the Week" segment of Le Show, with emphasis on McCartney saying "sorry".
- The film Greenberg includes a scene in which the character Florence, drunk on champagne, sings along to the song which Greenberg included on a mix-CD for her.
- Jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard covered the song on his 1971 album First Light.
- The song is mentioned in the lyrics of the song "Hillcrest" by New Zealand band The Changing Same.
- McGee 2003, p. 195.
- "89WLS Hit Parade". 1971-08-02. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
- "Allmusic: Paul McCartney: Charts & Awards". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
- Blaney, J. (2007). Lennon and McCartney: together alone: a critical discography of their solo work. Jawbone Press. pp. 46, 50. ISBN 978-1-906002-02-2.
- McGee 2003, p. 196.
- Benitez, V.P. (2010). The Words and Music of Paul McCartney: The Solo Years. Praeger. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-0-313-34969-0.
- Jackson, A.G. (2012). Still the Greatest: The Essential Songs of The Beatles' Solo Careers. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810882225.
- "Past Winners Search". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- "1971 Grammy Awards".
- Mason, S. "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey". Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-12-25.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "Top Singles - Volume 16, No. 5". RPM. 18 September 1971. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- Nielsen Business Media, Inc (25 December 1971). Billboard – Talent in Action 1971. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
- "Single Search: Paul and Linda McCartney – "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- "RPM 100 Top Singles of 1971". RPM. 8 January 1972. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
- "American single certifications – Paul Mc Cartney – Uncle Albert". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
- McGee, Garry (2003). Band on the Run: A History of Paul McCartney and Wings. New York: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 0-87833-304-5.
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